Do glowing product endorsements by top riders impress you? Are you tempted to buy a pair of breeches in the hope that they’ll give you the seat of a top rider, or a bag of feed or tub of supplement because it just might help your horse jump higher/get better dressage marks?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with sponsorship and to suggest otherwise would be a no-brainer. I know several top riders across the disciplines who believe passionately in their sponsors’ products and can give impressive examples of how they’ve worked for them.
But…we’ve all become a little shrewder. Shopping with a friend and her 12-year-old wannabe dressage diva daughter, we joked about whether feeding product X would enable her to get her Welsh Section C to Grand Prix.
“Nah,” she said. “I reckon half of them only use stuff because they get it for free.”
Gulp. Such cynicism from one so young. So what, we asked, would influence her?
Her answer was that she’d ask her friends, by which she meant not necessarily people that she knew, but those she followed online (under parental supervision) via Facebook and one or two internet forums. Her reasoning was that they were riders and owners of ‘ordinary’ horses and ponies and that she could relate more easily to their experiences.
But even then you have to be so, so careful. What some companies may think of as clever marketing and others may refer to in less complimentary terms can skew the balance of fairly made opinion. How many times have you seen opinions represented as impartial that make you think: hang on, this sounds a bit suspicious?
Sometimes, by tracking the posts a forum user makes and the subject matter they write on, you become even more suspicious. And when you find they say the same thing on every forum they can latch on to, you realise you’re not being paranoid. They really are out to get you – or at least, get your money.
We’re constantly bombarded by the siren calls of persuasion. The only answer is to do first-hand research: price those breeches on a cost per wear basis, read the dosage rates and ingredient lists on those supplements and compare the policies of all the insurance companies to ensure that you really are getting the best cover rather than just the cheapest premium,
That way, you’ll know you’ve done all you can to get the best product for you, your horse and your pocket.